argylesock says… Sleeping sickness is one of the diseases caused by trypanosomes, tiny parasites carried by tsetse flies A few minutes ago I remarked on how zebras’ stripes might be involved in defending these animals against tsetse flies. In that sense, zebras do us a favour by being stripy. But as this map shows, stripy zebras don’t prevent human disease caused by trypanosomes. The tsetse flies keep biting and the tryps keep breeding.
In the 1960s, we very nearly eliminated ‘Sleeping Sickness’, known today as Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) (1). But in the latter half of the 20th Century there was a marked resurgence, and although cases are now falling once again, an estimated 70 million people are still thought to be at risk (2).
Knowing exactly how many people have the disease, or are at risk of contracting it, is difficult, as cases tend to be concentrated in areas with little or no access to health services. But researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and Edinburgh University, have been working to map the levels of HAT risk in affected populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Their study, published in October 2012, provides both a striking visual representation of the reach of HAT and a mine of information for those working to eliminate the disease.
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